The decision, issued on Wednesday, comes in response to an appeal filed last year by Pirate Bay co-founders Fredrik Neij and Peter Sunde who alleged that their conviction in Sweden for facilitating copyright infringement amounted to a breach of their freedom of expression.
The court agreed that filesharing was covered by the right to “receive and impart information” under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the freedom of expression.
However, the ECHR explained further that material shared via The Pirate Bay was protected by the Copyright Act and that the rights of copyright holders must also be protected.
In convicting the Pirate Bay co-founders, the Swedish courts had “rightly balanced the competing interests at stake – i.e. the right of the applicants to receive and impart information and the necessity to protect copyright”, the ECHR ruled.
The appeal by Sunde and Neij was “manifestly ill-founded”, the court said in rejecting their application for a hearing.
The ruling by the ECHR, which cannot be appealed, means that the Pirate Bay co-founders have likely exhausted their last legal option in their attempts to have their guilty verdicts overturned.
Neij and Sunde were among four men convicted in April 2009 by a Swedish court for being accessories to copyright violation for their role in founding and operating The Pirate Bay.
They were sentenced to a year’s imprisonment apiece and a combined fine of 30 million kronor ($4.4 million).
Neij, Sunde, and co-defendents Carl Lundström, and Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, appealed their sentences, with the Svea Court of Appeal ruling in November 2011 to uphold the convictions, with the exception of Gottfried Svartholm Warg, who was absent due to illness.
In February 2012, however, the Swedish Supreme Court (Högsta Domstolen), announced it would not grant the right to appeal in the case, meaning the appeal’s court sentence would stand.
Despite the apparent finality of Wednesday’s decision by the ECHR, Sunde told the tech news website TorrentFreak that “not all doors are closed yet”.